Sunday, October 24, 2010

Chamber of Secrets

While scary in real life, the vast amount of secret money the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is stockpiling to purchase the next election is fodder for fiction if you are J.K. Rowling flirting with the idea of writing another book. How hard could it be to write a sequel to this Harry Potter favorite and describe all the Democrats petrified by a big-business basilisk?
Just like the Gringotts Wizarding Bank, the US Chamber houses secret vaults for Dow Chemical, News Corporation, Prudential Financial, Goldman Sachs and other corporate behemoths that are filled with cash and gold coins, and guarded by gremlins resembling a cross between Dobby and Karl Rove. Millions of unmarked payola dollars have been carted out by the “non-profit” Chamber in Washington, DC, and used to shape the healthcare reform law, soften the financial regulation bill, and spin myths about climate change. Now thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, these same Chamber gremlins are secretly financing the campaign of a witch. Really. 
If the Chamber of Secrets isn’t titillating enough for today’s “conservatives,” Rowling might write, “Harry Potter and the Half-Stud Prince.” The sordid saga of Clarence Thomas, and how one justice’s obsession with pornography has shaped American jurisprudence and campaign finance law.  After all, Thomas didn’t think the Citizens United case “went far enough.”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Wealthy on Welfare. A True and Tragic Irony

The boogeyman in this years’ election in Maine is welfare, which is curious because only one complaint about the public assistance system was made to the state representative of Maine’s richest community in four years. 
“Jim” worked as the director of a neighboring city’s public assistance program for decades and was on the verge of a comfortable retirement when he called his state representative. “There is fraud and abuse of the system by people who don’t speak English,” Jim told her. “These people are collecting benefits they don’t deserve.” 
Jim’s state representative agreed to set up a meeting with Jim and the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to hear more about this “problem.” Jim then fell off the face of the earth. Numerous calls made by his representative to him went unanswered. Email communication ceased. 
Months later the state representative was running past Jim’s house. She saw Jim in his truck and asked, “why didn’t you follow through with the meeting I set up with the Commissioner? Why didn’t you call me back, Jim, or respond to my emails?”
Jim said he was not going to “get involved” after all. He was ready, he said, to enjoy his well-deserved retirement.
A welfare director living large on a retirement benefit supported by an assistance program he believed was corrupt but did nothing to fix is “ironic,” right? 
Whose job was it to investigate the so-called abuse of this program, Jim?  How exactly are we supposed to fix a “problem” no one is willing or able to document? 
Isn’t the real problem, Jim, that we lack the integrity and moral compass to put the collective good ahead of our own?
What’s worse than welfare is a political system that no longer addresses the complicated problems we face as a society, but instead uses fear and myths to generate anger that is directed at the most vulnerable among us. What’s worse than welfare are individuals whose gaze is locked on their own reflection and who don’t see themselves as part of both the problem and solution. Personal responsibility is more than just a campaign slogan. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Save the Self-Storage Stalls for Senators

We shopped for so much stuff on credit that our homes burst at the brim and another American industry was born and is now bankrupt. Seedy self-storage stalls still litter the landscape to remind us of the decadent decade that almost destroyed our country.

Our problem went from the corporations and banks lending us too much money to buy things we didn't need, to these same corporations and banks buying our elections and bribing our politicians with the bailout we provided.

What if we transformed these self-storage barracks into sanctuaries for senators bird-dogged by special interests? Imagine the transformation when thick satin finish paint covers the walls, and polished wooden floors are sprinkled with wool rugs, a comfortable bed, a porcelain basin filled with lavender water and all the sustenance needed to win an election and govern.

True self-storage could become possible for the people we elect to solve our collective problems. With only the company of soft light and even softer music our leaders could with clear conscience re-connect to their values and the values of their community. These refurbished enclaves would offer soul-storage for the weary who are hunted by day for votes by well-heeled dogs, and who must hunt each night to fill their war chests.

The battle of the campaign is brutal. Greed and extremists are fierce enemies. Our den, though small, will nourish and strengthen. Government of, by and for the People will abide there.